INJUSTICE Interview: Director Matt Peters Talks His Superman Fandom And The Movie's Epic Cast (Exclusive)
With two hit video games and five "seasons" of comic book stories, adapting Injustice was never going to be easy. For director Matt Peters, it was a challenge he welcomed, especially as a Superman fan...
Injustice will be available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital on October 19, and the movie kicks off with an unthinkable tragedy that propels Superman into a dangerous new mindset, ultimately pitting Justice League members against each other in what we can promise you is a brutal, bloody battle.
Based on the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game, this animated adaptation from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment primarily pulls from Tom Taylor and Brian Buccellato's critically acclaimed comic book prequels, telling an original story with a lot of iconic moments thrown in for good measure.
Director Matt Peters (Justice League Dark: Apokolips War) was tasked with turning this story into a movie, and we were fortunate enough to catch up with him earlier this week to learn more about what that entailed. The filmmaker breaks down his approach to telling this story, and explains why his love of Superman ultimately made him the right fit to take the Man of Steel down a dark path.
He also weighs in on the possibility of a sequel, why Plastic Man receives so much of the spotlight, and the impressive voice cast that brought these heroes and villains to life in Injustice. There's a lot to delve into here, but we're sure you'll agree Matt was a great pick to adapt this beloved storyline!
Coming into this project, you know you’re going to have to balance the expectations of fans of the comics and games, so did you feel that added to the pressure of adapting this story and putting a new spin on it?
I’ll admit there was a little bit of pressure when we first started, but as a fan myself, once I saw Ernie [Altbacker’s] script and we really got into it, it started to come together. I got into it just like any fan would and got more and more excited. If there was any kind of concern or anxiety about doing it, once we got our fingers into it and really started to work it, it just became exciting. You couldn’t stop us! We were all thrilled to get involved and all thrilled to bring this thing to life. It felt more like a fun adventure and like we were watching the movie we wanted to see.
The comic books clearly played a big role in telling this version of Injustice, but from a visual perspective, did you find it more useful to look at those or footage from the games?
I would say it was more the comics than the games. We definitely tried to consider the games and wanted it to feel like it would pay homage to them. For myself, as a comic book fan, I was drawn to those more and really felt like that was our focus. It was something we really wanted to bring to life.
The dynamic between these characters is so much fun with Green Arrow and Harley Quinn a favourite of mine - which of those did you most enjoy exploring?
Rick [Morales] brought me on basically because he knew I was a huge Superman fan. That was something, more than anything, when he first told me, he hesitated because he said, ‘It’s Superman, but he’s going to be the bad guy in this.’ I felt like I was drawn to it to make sure I would portray Superman accurately. It’s really easy to get involved and create a character that, once they become evil, becomes a monster or boogeyman. I wanted to be sure, Rick and Ernie too, that we were creating a character that was going through a lot of conflict and everything. The change in his personality had to resonate with who the character is at his core. We didn’t want to come up with an easy, moustache-twirling villain; we wanted to make this Superman, but a Superman dealing with a lot of pain and grief, coming out of that in a way none of us wants to see for a character we love so much.
Superman is such an icon; did you have any reservations about taking him down the darker path we see in this movie?
Not really! Like I said, I looked at it as my job, frankly, not just as a director but also as a fan of Superman to play the role of a custodian and make sure that if there was anything that came up I thought was out of character, I could be there to say, ‘No, this is not how he would behave. This isn’t right.’ I looked at it as a responsibility, honestly. I had to make sure his personality came through accurately.
No spoilers, but there are some big deaths from the start in this movie; was it intimidating to be tasked with killing off these iconic characters in such brutal ways?
[Laughs] Yeah, it really was. It’s funny. Again, as a fan, starting with Superman and then all these other characters like Green Arrow, Harley Quinn, and Wonder Woman, we knew we would obviously be causing a lot of strife for them. There’s something about the dynamic of this brand when you start pitching these heroes going against each other and you have to create the psychology for each of them in a way that resonates and makes sense. You have to sympathise with every character each time you see them. Once we got involved with that, it felt like we were playing with action figures we’d always wanted to get since being little kids. We were able to tell the story in a way that made these characters…I think we showed how much we loved them. When there’s a death in this movie, you don’t feel, ‘Oh, that’s awesome!’ You actually feel like the floor has been pulled from under your feet and you’re heartbroken. You know that death is going to affect another character and you feel that heartbreak for them as well. It becomes this domino effect of emotion built up by the fact there’s so much history to these guys and we all love them so much.
The dynamic between Batman and Superman is so fascinating to watch play out, but what about that most excited you as a filmmaker and do you think there’s ever going to be a scenario where Bruce would agree with Clark’s way of thinking?
The thing I really liked about the dynamic between these two is that they’re two friends having a disagreement, but they still care and have a love for one another. That was the thing I really liked about it. There are times where Batman does things where he operates outside the law and he’s doing things harshly too like the way he treats his son, Damian. That can be very harsh and very cruel, so there are times when you feel he’s on the wrong side. Obviously, Superman is on the wrong side in other ways, but there are moments like when Superman tells Catwoman to go check in on Bruce and see how he’s doing. These characters still care about each other. They know they’re in pain, that they’re suffering, and yet they have this awkwardness of having to deal with one another.
It feels like the door is definitely left open for a sequel, so how would you feel about returning to continue expanding this Injustice world?
I would love to. We actually had to cut things out of this movie just to be able to make it as concise as it was. We were pulled in deep, got really involved with it, and got really excited. As soon as we finished, we looked at each other and said, ‘Where’s the next serving?’ It really comes down to fans speaking up as much as we’re hoping and getting as excited as we want them to be. We’re hoping the people at DC and Warners then have no choice but to issue another movie [Laughs].
I loved seeing Plastic Man receive such a big role in this story, but what about him as a character did you most enjoy getting to play around with here?
Oh my gosh, Plastic Man was great! The thing that was fantastic here is that this movie is obviously dealing with a lot of dark issues and deeper elements, and for Plastic Man to come in and add that element of humour and lightness you want through this movie…he’s kind of the relief valve for the film, emotionally, while you’re watching it. You end up reminding yourself that these characters can be fun and exciting even when they’re dealing with really tremendous pressures and circumstances. Plus, it’s just great to be able to see him move and animate him in ways you can’t with so many of the other characters. He’s also got his complicated history too with the fact he’s a former convict. It adds an element of nuance I think this movie really likes to deliver. It was just so much fun working with him as a character. I had a ball. I would love it if we could do an entire Plastic Man feature. Sign me up.
This movie has an incredible voice cast, but were there any that really surprised you when you got to watch the finished product? For me, Kevin Pollock’s work as The Joker jumped out, especially with that Pennywise vibe he brings…
I thought he did an outstanding job. Kevin was great. I was also really impressed with Faran Tahir as Ra’s al Ghul. He added this dark quality to how he presented his character. You almost get a chill when he starts speaking his lines. I thought he did an outstanding job. Anson Mount is an incredible Batman and he really got into the character as well. He’s the nicest guy in the world and super easy to talk to, but when he decided to play Batman, he really doubled down hard and found something in his voice to bring out this dark quality. Gillian Jacobs also did a great job on Harley Quinn too. It’s a character so many people have an idea in their mind about when they see her, so to be able to come up with a new way to play her off was fantastic.